Former law firm co-director jailed for sharing images of child exploitation

The Whangārei District Court sentenced the ex-lawyer to two and a half years in prison

Former law firm co-director jailed for sharing images of child exploitation

Content warning: mentions of child sexual abuse

A Northland-based ex-lawyer who was once co-director of a general practice law firm has been sentenced to two and a half years in prison for distributing images of child sexual abuse, reported the NZ Herald.

In September 2023, Customs raided the Kāitaia residence of 45-year-old Vaughn Clement Hill following the issuance of a search warrant. During the raid, electronic devices were confiscated.

According to a statement from Customs, forensic experts determined that Hill had shared material related to child sexual abuse on social media, including depictions of bestiality, rape and torture. He had also participated in chat room discussions about child sexual abuse.

Hill appeared before the Whangārei District Court on eight charges covering possession, export, and distribution of objectionable material. In addition to the prison term of two years and six months imposed by the court on 16 May, the ex-lawyer was also listed on the child sex offender register.

The investigation into Hill began after Customs received a tip from the US-based National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. A social media platform based overseas reported that a New Zealander had exported objectionable content to their platform.

Simon Peterson , the chief customs officer of the child exploitation operations team, said that the possession and distribution of child sexual abuse material is not a victimless crime, as it fuels demand and encourages further abuse, endangering children.

“This man was viewing violent and damaging abuse being inflicted on real children, including infants, with scant regard for the pain and trauma being caused to the victims and their families”, Peterson said in a statement published by the Herald.

While he was in practice, Hill focused on conveyancing, wills, enduring powers of attorney and small business transactions. The firm for which he worked ended his contract in November 2023, and he has been removed from the Law Society’s registry.

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